Photo courtesy of Cincinnati athletics
Back on Jan. 26, an article was published here with the way too early AAC predictions. With the full, finalized schedules announced for 2021, let’s update the predictions.
What percent chance we give each team in each game is provided. For some FCS games, a percent chance to win of 100% was given. Obviously there is no such thing, but percentages were rounded on the fives, so consider it to be 97.5% and up.
In using the percentages, we have what the average record would be. This average record tends to benefit worse teams and hurt better teams, and should be taken with a grain of salt.
For the projected floors and ceilings, any game with at least a 40% chance to win is counted as a win for the ceiling, and less than or equal to a 60% chance to win counted as a loss for the floor.
11. South Florida (2020 Record: 0-7, 1-8; 2021 Projected: 0-8, 1-11)
South Florida is in the process of rebuilding under head coach Jeff Scott. The Bulls should improve over time, but 2021 is unlikely to be that year they break through.
The three-week stretch of home vs. Tulsa after a bye, home vs. Temple, and away vs. East Carolina give them a great opportunity to pick up at least one conference win. Getting the bye week to prepare for a Tulsa team traveling one time zone and almost 1,000 miles could aid in an upset early in conference play.
|Sept. 2||at NC State||L||0-1 (0-0)||10%|
|Sept. 11||Florida||L||0-2 (0-0)||5%|
|Sept. 18||Florida A&M||W||1-2 (0-0)||95%|
|Sept. 24||at BYU||L||1-3 (0-0)||25%|
|Oct. 2||at SMU||L||1-4 (0-1)||15%|
|Oct. 16||Tulsa||L||1-5 (0-2)||35%|
|Oct. 23||Temple||L||1-6 (0-3)||45%|
|Oct. 30||at East Carolina||L||1-7 (0-4)||25%|
|Nov. 6||Houston||L||1-8 (0-5)||10%|
|Nov. 12||Cincinnati||L||1-9 (0-6)||5%|
|Nov. 20||at Tulane||L||1-10 (0-7)||15%|
|Nov. 26||at UCF||L||1-11 (0-8)||5%|
|AVERAGE RECORD||2.9-9.1 (2.6-5.4)|
Floor: 1-11 (0-8)
Ceiling: 2-10 (1-7)
10. Temple (2020 Record: 1-6, 1-6; 2021 Projected: 1-7, 3-9)
Temple was done very few favors with this schedule. Having to travel to East Carolina on a short week hurts its odds of stealing a win on the road against a beatable Pirates team.
There are some projected losses that could be potential wins out there. So, it will be interesting to see if head coach Rod Carey and the Owls can break through the ceiling we’ve set.
|Sept. 4||at Rutgers||L||0-1 (0-0)||30%|
|Sept. 11||at Akron||W||1-1 (0-0)||70%|
|Sept. 18||Boston College||L||1-2 (0-0)||20%|
|Sept. 25||Wagner||W||2-2 (0-0)||95%|
|Oct. 2||Memphis||L||2-3 (0-1)||15%|
|Oct. 8||at Cincinnati||L||2-4 (0-2)||10%|
|Oct. 23||at South Florida||W||3-4 (1-2)||55%|
|Oct. 30||UCF||L||3-5 (1-3)||10%|
|Nov. 4||at East Carolina||L||3-6 (1-4)||35%|
|Nov. 13||Houston||L||3-7 (1-5)||10%|
|Nov. 20||at Tulsa||L||3-8 (1-6)||20%|
|Nov. 27||Navy||L||3-9 (1-7)||35%|
|AVERAGE RECORD||4.1-7.9 (1.9-6.1)|
Floor: 2-10 (0-8)
Ceiling 3-9 (1-7)
9. East Carolina (2020 Record: 3-5, 3-6; 2021 Projected: 2-6, 3-9)
East Carolina is the only team in the conference that does not have a game between 40% and 60% chance to win. This means that the Pirates’ floor is the same as their ceiling for the purposes of this exercise. That is a minor design flaw, since obviously their floor should be lower than their projected record, and vice-versa for their ceiling.
Also, East Carolina has proven that it is going to find one or two wins against teams towards the top of the conference standings. One spot where the schedule definitely could have broken better for the Pirates is for their bye to not coincide with Houston’s a week before their match-up. East Carolina only catches Temple on a short week — a match-up that would’ve already been considered a win for the Pirates in a normal week.
|Sept. 2||Appalachian State||L||0-1 (0-0)||20%|
|Sept. 11||South Carolina||L||0-2 (0-0)||35%|
|Sept. 18||Marshall||L||0-3 (0-0)||25%|
|Sept. 25||Charleston Southern||W||1-3 (0-0)||95%|
|Oct. 2||Tulane||L||1-4 (0-1)||30%|
|Oct. 9||at UCF||L||1-5 (0-2)||15%|
|Oct. 23||at Houston||L||1-6 (0-3)||25%|
|Oct. 30||South Florida||W||2-6 (1-3)||75%|
|Nov. 4||Temple||W||3-6 (2-3)||65%|
|Nov. 13||at Memphis||L||3-7 (2-4)||25%|
|Nov. 20||at Navy||L||3-8 (2-5)||30%|
|Nov. 27||Cincinnati||L||3-9 (2-6)||20%|
|AVERAGE RECORD||4.6-7.4 (2.9-5.1)|
Floor: 3-9 (2-6)
Ceiling: 3-9 (2-6)
8. Navy (2020: Record: 3-4, 3-7; 2021 Projected: 2-6, 4-8)
Navy is historically good on Senior Day. By getting UCF, SMU, and Cincinnati at home, it looked like the Midshipmen might be able to punch above their weight class, if only for one game. But then The American gave them East Carolina as their Senior Day, with an extra week to prepare. Imagine what Navy could have done with an extra week to prepare for a Senior Day bout vs. any of UCF, SMU, or even Cincinnati?
Also, they go to Houston early in the season after a bye, and we’ve seen good teams struggle with Navy early in the season.
The stretch between the bye weeks is a brutal one, but Navy could finish the season strong with three straight wins vs. East Carolina, at Temple, and vs. Army.
Even though the current projections have it at 4-8, Navy fans can take a little solace in the current projections giving them a Senior Day win, a win over Army, and the Commander-In-Chief Trophy.
|Sept. 4||Marshall||L||0-1 (0-0)||35%|
|Sept. 11||Air Force||W||1-1 (0-0)||60%|
|Sept. 25||at Houston||L||1-2 (0-1)||40%|
|Oct. 2||UCF||L||1-3 (0-2)||20%|
|Oct. 9||SMU||L||1-4 (0-3)||30%|
|Oct. 14||at Memphis||L||1-5 (0-4)||30%|
|Oct. 23||Cincinnati||L||1-6 (0-5)||20%|
|Oct. 29||at Tulsa||L||1-7 (0-6)||30%|
|Nov. 6||at Notre Dame||L||1-8 (0-6)||15%|
|Nov. 20||East Carolina||W||2-8 (1-6)||70%|
|Nov. 27||at Temple||W||3-8 (2-6)||65%|
|Dec. 11||Army||W||4-8 (2-6)||55%|
|AVERAGE RECORD||4.7-8.3 (3.1-4.9)|
Floor: 2-10 (2-6)
Ceiling: 5-7 (4-8)
7. SMU (2020 Record: 4-3, 7-3; 2021 Projected: 4-4, 7-5)
SMU was already going to be facing a very tough road schedule. That was before finding out SMU ended the season with vs. Tulane, at Houston, at Memphis, vs. UCF, at Cincinnati and vs. Tulsa six weeks in a row.
Also, Memphis has a bye week before hosting SMU, and Cincinnati has an extra day of rest before hosting SMU.
One benefit SMU does see is the fact that it has two ‘mini-bye weeks’ in the middle of the season. The Mustangs get 11 days between Navy and Tulane, and eight days between Tulane and Houston. Outside of that, schedule makers did SMU no favors.
Starting with SMU, every team’s ceiling is going to be a little high, just as a warning.
|Sept. 4||Abilene Christian||W||1-0 (0-0)||100%|
|Sept. 11||North Texas||W||2-0 (0-0)||80%|
|Sept. 18||at Louisiana Tech||W||3-0 (0-0)||65%|
|Sept. 25||at TCU||L||3-1 (0-0)||40%|
|Oct. 2||South Florida||W||4-1 (1-0)||85%|
|Oct. 9||at Navy||W||5-1 (2-0)||70%|
|Oct. 21||Tulane||L||5-2 (2-1)||40%|
|Oct. 30||at Houston||W||6-2 (3-1)||60%|
|Nov. 6||at Memphis||L||6-3 (3-2)||40%|
|Nov. 13||UCF||L||6-4 (3-3)||40%|
|Nov. 20||at Cincinnati||L||6-5 (3-4)||25%|
|Nov. 27||Tulsa||W||7-5 (4-4)||55%|
|AVERAGE RECORD||7-5 (4.1-3.9)|
Floor: 5-7 (2-6)
Ceiling: 11-1 (7-1)
6. Memphis (2020 Record: 5-3, 8-3; 2021 Projected: 5-3, 8-4)
There are four teams with a projected conference record of 5-3. Based on tiebreakers from past seasons, it would appear that Memphis finishes at the bottom based on head-to-head results. But it’s a complicated system, so hopefully it doesn’t come to this.
As mentioned with SMU, getting a bye week before hosting the Mustangs is beneficial. The rest of the schedule looks pretty good, given the competition.
The Tigers host Navy on a short week, and short weeks tend to benefit the home team. Then they get an extra couple of days to prep for their next match-up: at UCF.
Finally, they do lose a day traveling to Houston, which hurts. But they make it up by getting an extra day to prep for vs. Tulane — a game that should be close.
Thanks in part to avoiding Cincinnati, there’s no game here where Memphis has less than a 35% chance to win.
|Sept. 4||Nicholls||W||1-0 (0-0)||100%|
|Sept. 11||at Arkansas State||W||2-0 (0-0)||75%|
|Sept. 18||Mississippi State||L||2-1 (0-0)||40%|
|Sept. 25||UTSA||W||3-1 (0-0)||60%|
|Oct. 2||at Temple||W||4-1 (1-0)||85%|
|Oct. 9||at Tulsa||L||4-2 (1-1)||45%|
|Oct. 14||Navy||W||5-2 (2-1)||70%|
|Oct. 22||at UCF||L||5-3 (2-2)||40%|
|Nov. 6||SMU||W||6-3 (3-2)||60%|
|Nov. 13||East Carolina||W||7-3 (4-2)||75%|
|Nov. 19||at Houston||L||7-4 (4-3)||35%|
|Nov. 27||Tulane||W||8-4 (5-3)||60%|
|AVERAGE RECORD||7.5-4.5 (4.7-3.3)|
Floor: 5-7 (3-5)
Ceiling: 11-1 (7-1)
5. Houston (2020 Record: 3-3, 3-5: 2021 Projected: 5-3, 9-3)
As mentioned, the Cougars get Memphis on a short week at home, which helps them out. They also only have two road trips where they have multiple consecutive road games, one of which should be an easy trip to Temple. The other, however, is a trip to Tulane on a short week. Thankfully for the Cougars, Tulane is actually on a shorter week by a day.
Houston also avoids both UCF and Cincinnati, which really helps. It also recently added a trip to Connecticut as its 12th and final game. With the exception of maybe the home game against Texas Tech on Sept. 4, Houston should be 4-0 in non-conference play. Houston also has six games with at least a 75% chance to win, and four with at least a 90% chance to win.
|Sept. 4||Texas Tech||W||1-0 (0-0)||75%|
|Sept. 11||at Rice||W||2-0 (0-0)||90%|
|Sept. 18||Grambling State||W||3-0 (0-0)||100%|
|Sept. 25||Navy||W||4-0 (1-0)||60%|
|Oct. 1||at Tulsa||L||4-1 (1-1)||45%|
|Oct. 7||at Tulane||L||4-2 (1-2)||45%|
|Oct. 23||East Carolina||W||5-2 (2-2)||75%|
|Oct. 30||SMU||L||5-3 (2-3)||40%|
|Nov. 6||at South Florida||W||6-3 (3-3)||90%|
|Nov. 13||at Temple||W||7-3 (4-3)||85%|
|Nov. 19||Memphis||W||8-3 (5-3)||65%|
|Nov. 27||at Connecticut||W||9-3 (5-3)||95%|
|AVERAGE RECORD||8.7-3.3 (5.1-2.9)|
Floor: 7-5 (3-5)
Ceiling: 12-0 (8-0)
4. Tulsa (2020 Record: 6-0, 6-3; 2021 Projected: 5-3, 7-5)
The Golden Hurricane do get an extra day for their home match vs. Memphis, which gives them the narrow edge.
They also have the toughest two-week stretch in the conference of visits to Oklahoma State and Ohio State.
As for the rest of in-conference play, they only have consecutive away games once. That Nov. 13 trip to Tulane is going to play a large role in whether they can separate themselves with the rest of the AAC, or finish around .500 in conference play like a lot of teams might.
|Sept. 2||UC Davis||W||1-0 (0-0)||100%|
|Sept. 11||at Oklahoma State||L||1-1 (0-0)||35%|
|Sept. 18||at Ohio State||L||1-2 (0-0)||10%|
|Sept. 25||Arkansas State||W||2-2 (0-0)||60%|
|Oct. 1||Houston||W||3-2 (1-0)||55%|
|Oct. 9||Memphis||W||4-2 (2-0)||55%|
|Oct. 16||at South Florida||W||5-2 (3-0)||65%|
|Oct. 29||Navy||W||6-2 (4-0)||70%|
|Nov. 6||at Cincinnati||L||6-3 (4-1)||25%|
|Nov. 13||at Tulane||L||6-4 (4-2)||40%|
|Nov. 20||Temple||W||7-4 (5-2)||80%|
|Nov. 27||at SMU||L||7-5 (5-3)||45%|
|AVERAGE RECORD||6.4-5.6 (4.4-3.6)|
Floor: 4-8 (3-9)
Ceiling: 9-3 (7-1)
3. Tulane (2020 Record: 3-5, 6-6; 2021 Projected: 5-3, 7-5)
Tulane should be pretty happy with how the schedule fell. While SMU, Cincinnati, UCF, and Tulsa will be a tough four-game stretch from late-October to mid-November, the rest isn’t too bad.
Similar to SMU, the Green Wave also were lucky with getting the most out of their bye week. Except, Tulane gets an extra two days at the beginning of their bye, since it hosts Houston on a Thursday night before the bye. Doubly lucky!
Tulane gets to play tough competition like Houston on a short week at home. It gets 13 days before it travels to SMU, and then eight days before hosting Cincinnati.
|Sept. 4||Oklahoma||L||0-1 (0-0)||20%|
|Sept. 11||Morgan State||W||1-1 (0-0)||100%|
|Sept. 18||at Ole Miss||L||1-2 (0-0)||40%|
|Sept. 25||UAB||W||2-2 (0-0)||60%|
|Oct. 2||at East Carolina||W||3-2 (1-0)||70%|
|Oct. 7||Houston||W||4-2 (2-0)||55%|
|Oct. 21||at SMU||W||5-2 (3-0)||60%|
|Oct. 30||Cincinnati||L||5-3 (3-1)||35%|
|Nov. 6||at UCF||L||5-4 (3-2)||40%|
|Nov. 13||Tulsa||W||6-4 (4-2)||60%|
|Nov. 20||South Florida||W||7-4 (5-2)||85%|
|Nov. 27||at Memphis||L||7-5 (5-3)||40%|
|AVERAGE RECORD||6.6-5.4 (4.4-3.6)|
Floor: 3-9 (2-6)
Ceiling: 10-2 (7-1)
2. UCF (2020 Record: 5-3, 6-4; 2021 Projected: 11-1, 7-1)
All aboard the Gus bus!
With the assumption that trips to Louisville and Navy are not too tough, UCF’s first real road test will come Oct. 16 at Cincinnati. This game could decide the regular season conference champion. At the very least, this game will likely decide one of the two participants in the conference championship.
One potential trap game is Memphis having an extra two days to prepare for the Oct. 22 match-up in Orlando. If the Knights upset the Bearcats a week before, this could be a classic letdown spot.
UCF also never plays consecutive road games all season, although it does have its bye week early – the week of Sept. 25.
After a disappointing 2020, the schedule falls nicely for new head coach Gus Malzahn and company to take back control of the AAC.
|Sept. 4||Boise State||W||1-0 (0-0)||65%|
|Sept. 11||Bethune-Cookman||W||2-0 (0-0)||100%|
|Sept. 18||at Louisville||W||3-0 (0-0)||75%|
|Oct. 2||at Navy||W||4-0 (1-0)||80%|
|Oct. 9||East Carolina||W||5-0 (2-0)||85%|
|Oct. 16||at Cincinnati||L||5-1 (2-1)||40%|
|Oct. 22||Memphis||W||6-1 (3-1)||60%|
|Oct. 30||at Temple||W||7-1 (4-1)||90%|
|Nov. 6||Tulane||W||8-1 (5-1)||60%|
|Nov. 13||at SMU||W||9-1 (6-1)||60%|
|Nov. 20||Connecticut||W||10-1 (6-1)||100%|
|Nov. 26||South Florida||W||11-1 (7-1)||95%|
|AVERAGE RECORD||9.1-2.9 (5.7-2.3)|
Floor: 8-4 (4-4)
Ceiling: 12-0 (8-0)
1. Cincinnati (2020 Record: 6-0, 9-1; 2021 Projected: 11-1, 8-0)
‘Oh man, oh man. Not again…’
It’s hard to find losses on Cincinnati’s schedule. As already referenced with UCF, the Oct. 16 bout will be a monumental game in Cincinnati. Hopefully this is a night game where Cincinnati wears its all-black uniforms. As far as aesthetics go in the AAC, that uniform and time of day combination is one of the best.
Getting a bye between traveling to Indiana and Notre Dame should help it at least split these games. While it has no impact on the conference standings, it definitely could help the conference’s standing in the college football landscape. Winning both games could also help the case for a playoff spot everyone knows will never exist for the Group of 5.
The only other potentially tricky stretch would be the Bearcats’ final five games. As mentioned, Tulane has a ton of potential. Tulsa played Cincinnati very close last year. They travel to USF on a short week, which does benefit the home team.
SMU could be a pesky team down the stretch. East Carolina on ECU’s Senior Day is always a wild card. It’s unlikely, but crazier upsets have happened.
|Sept. 4||Miami University||W||1-0 (0-0)||95%|
|Sept. 11||Murray State||W||2-0 (0-0)||100%|
|Sept. 18||at Indiana||L||2-1 (0-0)||40%|
|Oct. 2||at Notre Dame||W||3-1 (0-0)||60%|
|Oct. 8||Temple||W||4-1 (1-0)||90%|
|Oct. 16||UCF||W||5-1 (2-0)||60%|
|Oct. 23||at Navy||W||6-1 (3-0)||80%|
|Oct. 30||at Tulane||W||7-1 (4-0)||65%|
|Nov. 6||Tulsa||W||8-1 (5-0)||75%|
|Nov. 12||at South Florida||W||9-1 (6-0)||95%|
|Nov. 20||SMU||W||10-1 (7-0)||75%|
|Nov. 27||at East Carolina||W||11-1 (8-0)||80%|
|AVERAGE RECORD||9.2-2.8 (6.2-1.8)|
Floor: 8-4 (5-3)
Ceiling: 12-0 (8-0)
Final Standings (sorted by Projected Conference standings):
|Team||Overall||Conference||Avg (Overall)||Avg (Conf)||Floor (Overall)||Floor (Conf)||Ceiling (Overall)||Ceiling (Conf)|